When The X-Files returned in 2016, it was weird enough seeing Mulder and Scully using smart phones. Now that another season is upon us in a world that's dramatically different only two (long) years later, it begs the question — will The X-Files Season 11 dig into President Trump and the often surreal political climate that was 2017? Surely some fans would love an extraterrestrial conspiracy to explain it all away in the world of the show. In a round table interview at New York Comic-Con, creator Chris Carter talked about how The X-Files will address Donald Trump, and how current events have been part of the show's framework for decades.
"The X-Files has always dealt with political realities," Carter says, "as part of its appeal early on. It really is a show that came out of my childhood which is — I was a child, I was too young to be in the Vietnam War, but I was 17 years old when Watergate happened. That was a powerful thing for me. So my distrust of government comes right from that experience."
That distrust in political authority, he says, is still evident today. It is on either side of the spectrum, in fact. But it certainly was in 1993 when The X-Files was just getting started. It's kind of the point of the show, in a way, the first run of which ended in 2002.
"So much has changed politically since 1993," says Carter, "radical changes to 2001, radical changes through the Obama years, and even more radical change with President Trump. So The X-Files has gotten to deal with a lot of political realities, and I’ll always think it’s given the show a lot of its life."
How will the new season address the current reality? The premiere episode is titled "My Struggle III" — and if you recall from Season 10, "My Struggle" and "My Struggle II" involved a right wing online broadcaster, a possible underground fascist movement looking to overthrow the government... and an alien virus. As always with this show, the supernatural is mixed heavily into any political storytelling and/or undertones.
That said, those episodes also involved Cigarette Smoking Man, or Cancer Man, who may or may not be behind installing certain world leaders and putting movements into action. Could this shadowy operative and the Syndicate be behind Trump in the series' universe — or, at the very least, Steve Bannon?
"I can tell you there’s not an episode that deals directly with the political realities," Carter reveals about Season 11. "The political realities are part of the way we think about the show. But we’re not responding to the political reality the way [shows like American Horror Story: Cult] are, where they’re taking it head on."
So it's more of an "inspired by true events" than a "based on" situation, perhaps. Television and popular culture in general has ridden a delicate and unavoidable line over the last two years when it comes to pertinence. Some shows, like Broad City and AHS: Cult have dealt with the 2016 election bluntly. Others, like The Handmaid's Tale, American Gods, and even action films like Rogue One have invited modern political comparisons that were for the most part unintentional, but still worth adding to a larger conversation.
However, if you're the type of viewer that thinks politics and social agendas should stay out of fandom, you're out of luck. You can't have Fox Mulder without government conspiracy theories. The X-Files just doesn't work like that, and searching for truth and pointing out lies feels more important than ever in 2018.
Additional reporting by Sage Young.